Yuma Must Return Patient's Marijuana After Losing Case in U.S. Supreme Court
Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot told the media last summer that returning marijuana to a medicinal user was "not how we do business."
But Wilmot did not return calls or even issue a statement this morning after the U.S. Supreme Court decided -- by its inaction -- that Wilmot must give the pot back to the patient.
With the decision to turn down the Yuma case for a hearing, the U.S. Supreme Court has sided squarely with the state's medical-marijuana law.
Apparently, the High Court may not believe what right-wing prohibitionists have been saying -- that the federal Controlled Substances Act invalidates state laws like the voter-approved one in Arizona.
Perhaps Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery ought to re-evaluate his policy of spending taxpayer money on endless appeals of local court cases that have upheld the Arizona law. Just as Sheriff Wilmot lost this case in state appeals court, Montgomery's been losing important cases on the issue, such as the former county ban on dispensaries in unincorporated areas, and the Zander Welton case on concentrates.
Previous U.S. Supreme Court cases, most notably the 2005 landmark case of Gonzales v. Raich that backed the federal prohibition on growing marijuana despite the freedoms given under California state law. But with this ruling, reportedly similar to California case the High Court declined to hear in 2008, the Supreme Court appears to give Arizona's medical-pot legalization law its blessing.
The Obama Administration, as you'll recall, decided last summer that it would not fight states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes.
Photo illustration: Ray Stern Yuma Sheriff Leon Wilmot doesn't want to let go of Valerie Okun's bag of weed. Today's U.S. Supreme Court opinion should change his mind.
The Yuma case began after California patient Valerie Okun's car was stopped at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint and was discovered to be in possession of about three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis.
As New Times reported in 2008, Yuma County has a convenient, money-making arrangement with the Border Patrol. While Yuma nor any other local authority in Arizona cannot set up a drug-sniffing dog checkpoint, the Border Patrol employs canines to look for large loads of drugs and illegal immigrants. The feds don't want to handle the many cases of average folks driving through the checkpoint with a little bit of marijuana, but Yuma County has been more than willing to prosecute offenders who don't have a medical card.
Okun proved she was a legal user under Arizona law, which recognizes medical-marijuana approvals from other states, but she was forced to sue when the Sheriff Wilmot refused to return her weed. The Arizona Supreme Court backed up Okun, but Wilmot continued to use taxpayer money to keep appealing. This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, meaning Okun wins.
Sheriff Wilmot wasn't the only one to fail to return our call this morning. We also haven't heard back yet from Okun's Yuma lawyer, Michael Donovan, who was reportedly in a meeting and couldn't come to the phone, or from Drug Enforcement Agency spokeswoman Ramona Sanchez. We'll let you know if any of them call back, or if the Yuma Sheriff releases a statement about when he's going to give Okun her two-year-old bag of pot back.
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.